History Department
History Department

Frank Denius, 1925-2018: An Appreciation

Mon, July 30, 2018
Frank Denius, 1925-2018: An Appreciation
Photo by Marsha Miller.

Frank Denius, who passed away at ninety-three years old on July 29, met each spring for years with a group of twenty University of Texas at Austin students who were about to leave for Europe as part of the Frank Denius Normandy Scholar Program.

And each fall, Denius — the noted philanthropist, businessman and decorated World War II veteran — met with some of those students after they’ve returned.  They gave him scrapbooks and photos of their studies abroad. He saw just how powerful it is to learn about World War II on the battlefields of Europe.

“They speak with a voice and look with an eye that shows they’re in awe. It was just an awesome experience for them,” Denius says. “Several over the years have said ‘seeing that and participating in this program has changed my life and my thinking about the defense of freedom.’”

That’s what Denius had in mind in 1990 when he worked with then-university President William Cunningham and Texas Governor Bill Clements to help establish and fund the History Department’s Normandy Scholar Program. Since then, over 600 students have studied the causes, history and consequences of World War II in the classroom, on the beaches of Normandy, and at other sites in Europe.

Denius’ support for the Normandy Scholar Program was only natural given his personal history. The Athens, Texas, native was part of the American invasion of Normandy, France in June 1944 when he was just nineteen years old.  Denius, who is often described as one of the most decorated soldiers of the Second World War, earned four Silver Stars and two Purple Hearts for his service and leadership during World War II.  

According to Professor Charters Wynn, the current Director of the program. “‘Life-changing’ and ‘unforgettable’ are two words that often come up when students describe their experience in the program. All of the faculty and students who have been part of the Frank Denius Normandy Scholar Program, which is entering its thirtieth year, will miss him greatly.”

"Mr. Denius, a 1949 graduate of the UT Business School and Law School, was a veteran of World War II and one of the university’s most generous benefactors. We in the History Department will forever be grateful for his vision in supporting the Normandy Scholar Program," Dr. Jacqueline Jones, Professor and Chair of the History Department, Ellen C. Temple Chair in Women’s History, and Mastin Gentry White Professor of Southern History

"Frank Denius, one of the most decorated heroes of the Second World War, was also a hero to the Frank Denius Normandy Scholar Program in World War II (NSP)," noted Professor Michael B. Stoff, Distinguished Teaching Associate Professor of History. "Humble, soft-spoken, canny, and compassionate, Mr. Denius underwrote the NSP for years, spent time with many of our Normandy Scholars, and served as a living link to the past they were studying. The program rightly bears his name, for without his generous support, it might not have survived as it has for nearly three decades. I was honored to know him, and all of us associated with the NSP will miss him greatly."

Thanks to Profs. Charters Wynn, Jacqueline Jones, Michael B. Stoff, and Life & Letters, College of Liberal Arts, for contributions to this story.

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